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Systems of Care for Children and Youth

Systems of Care for Children and Youth

What is a System of Care?

A "System of Care” is the philosophy of how care should be delivered to children and youth. It recognizes the importance of family, school and community and it promotes the full potential of every child and youth by addressing his/her physical, emotional, intellectual, cultural and social needs.

In a "system of care,” mental health, education, child welfare, juvenile justice, and other agencies work together. This partnership ensures that children and their families have access to necessary services.

The King County Mental Health Plan (KCMHP) emphasizes full family and youth partnership, recovery-oriented practices, and coordinated care. The KCMHP and its providers partner with youth, families, communities, and allied service providers to help children participate fully in school and community life, and reach their full potential.

Mental health services are designed to allow children, youth and families to achieve meaningful outcomes and successes in treatment.

Mental health services are recovery oriented and focus on:

  • Helping children and youth stabilize in their homes and community.
  • Building on a child’s or youth’s strengths, skills and appropriate developmental life stages.
  • The unique culture of the family and using this culture to encourage stability and growth.

Children's Mental Health Plan

The Children's Mental Health Plan was developed with this vision in mind. The Plan is a guide for all King County children’s service providers. It outlines the development of policy, programming, service delivery, and quality management for publicly funded children's mental health services. Federal, state, and local mental health system goals are included. The Plan emphasizes recovery oriented services and system of care practices as guiding principles for the mental health system. The King County Mental Health Plan, in partnership with service providers, family members and other key stakeholders published the plan in 2005.

Why Are Systems of Care Needed?

Five to nine percent of children and youth between the ages of 9-17 have serious emotional disturbances that cause substantial functional impairment. Many do not receive the supports and services they need to reach their full potential at home, at school, and in their communities. By creating partnerships among child and family service providers, “systems of care” are able to coordinate services that meet families’ ever-changing needs. Coordinated services lead to improved outcomes and help prevent the duplication of services.

Values and Guiding Principles of the KCMHP children’s mental health delivery system

  • Family Centered: The family is the focus of attention. Support is given in a collaborative fashion in accordance with the family’s wishes, strengths, and needs.
  • Least restrictive environments: Services are provided within the family’s own community whenever possible. Children are supported to remain with their families, rather than being placed in institutional care. (i.e. foster homes, group homes, hospitals, etc.)
  • Individualized and tailored care: Services are based on each child and family’s unique needs and characteristics.
  • Strength-based: Strength-based services utilize a family’s existing strengths and skills to shape and implement the agreed upon treatment plan.
  • Culturally competent: Service providers have an understanding of the knowledge, values, beliefs and customs belonging to particular cultural communities and families.

Contact Us

Phone 206-263-9000

TTY Relay: 711

Fax: 206-296-0583